Is Kings County Using Amtrak to Undermine HSR?
As a passenger rail advocate, I want to see passenger rail serve as many places in California as possible. That includes Kings County. I continue to be utterly baffled by local officials’ opposition to a high speed rail stop for Hanford/Visalia, as it would do wonders for the region’s economy by connecting it to jobs and capital on the coasts. It would also help provide an affordable travel option for county residents.
Adding to the bafflement is the fact that Kings County officials are now screaming about saving Amtrak service in their county – even though the same county officials have been working to kill the high speed rail project:
Local officials raised concerns Tuesday with California High-Speed Rail Authority Board members about the impact of the project on Amtrak and agriculture. It was the fourth such meeting, part of a process intended to create more cooperation….
“I want to see the [Amtrak] service saved, and will do everything I can to make that happen,” said Dan Richard, Authority board chairman.
Officials representing Corcoran, including County Supervisor Richard Valle and Corcoran City Manager Kindon Meik, made it clear how important they think the station is. Valle presented a video in which Corcoran residents and business owners talked about the negative impact if the station went away.
It’s a social justice issue for economically disadvantaged residents in Corcoran who have no other means of transportation, Meik said.
“Amtrak is a crucial part of our community,” he said. “It’s likely that if Amtrak goes away, then our city-owned buses will also go away.”
I’m definitely sympathetic to these concerns, and applaud CHSRA board chair Dan Richard for working with Kings County officials to protect Amtrak service. It’s the right thing for him to be doing and the right thing for Kings County.
But I still can’t understand why Kings County wants Amtrak but is also trying to kill better, faster high speed rail service for their county. One has to ask this question: are they using Amtrak as an argument against high speed rail? Is their newfound concern for passenger rail service in the form of the San Joaquins an effort to preserve the status quo at the expense of HSR?
All the arguments that local officials are using for Amtrak also apply to high speed rail. If you support one, it just makes sense that you’d also support the other.
I’d be curious to hear how Kings County officials explain away this glaring discrepancy.